We’re three days separated from the Class A State Championship game…and I still have a hard time trying to wrap my mind around what we witnessed in Edmond. The amount of twists and turns that came in a 48 minute game between two of Class A’s best teams (Fairview and Gore) left me at a loss of words. Now that we’re a couple days removed from it, I’m going to do the best I can to recap what went down Saturday night in Edmond on the campus of UCO.
In the final high school football game of the 2022 season, the Oklahoma Class A State Championship Game featured a matchup of 2 undefeated teams who were easily two of the best teams in the class. The 14-0 Fairview Yellowjackets were making their 3rd state championship appearance in school history and first since 1999. Led by head coach Robert Bernard, the Yellowjackets came into this game averaging 49.5 points per game while holding their opponents to just 12.6 points per game. After a regular season where they essentially blew out every opponent they faced, the playoffs had been anything but easy the last 2 weeks as the Yellowjackets had to fight their way to win close games against Stroud and Colcord. The Yellowjackets were definitely the more battle tested team.
Then on the other side, you had Gore who was also 14-0. The Pirates were making their very first state championship appearance in school history on a season where they scored just 57.5 points per game while giving up just 6 points per game. Their defense had shut out 8 of their 14 opponents on the season! The Pirates came in led by a running back, Gunnar Dozier, who had nearly 1,800 yards on the year with 35 touchdowns! Even including the playoffs, the Pirates closest game was a 55-20 game against Woodland in the 2nd round of the playoffs. But the question surrounding the Pirates was, “If things are close, how would they respond?”
1st Quarter: Gore won the toss and instead of differing to the 2nd half (which is what a lot of teams usually do), the Pirates decided that they wanted to receive the opening kickoff in hopes of making a statement against the Yellowjackets. However, things quickly went downhill for the Pirates after the opening kick went through the legs of the return man and after he finally picked up the ball, the Yellowjackets kick coverage was already down the field and Gore was forced to start the drive on the 10 yard line. Ideally, the Pirates were at least hoping to get 20 to 25 yards and then if they had to punt, they wouldn’t be punting inside the 20 and potentially setting up the Yellowjackets with excellent field position. That did not happen though as the Pirates went 3-and-out and punted the ball to Fairview and the Yellowjackets were set up at the 41 yard line. Fairview’s opening drive was a thing of beauty that saw the Yellowjackets convert on THREE 4th downs and were able to take a 7-0 lead as Jax Bernard ran in a 14 yard touchdown with 6:22 to go in the first quarter. How would Gore respond to being down in the most important game of the season? Well, they responded very well as 2 plays later super star running back Gunnar Dozier scampered 54 yards into the endzone and the Pirates were right back into it. Things looked like they were starting to fall apart for Fairview as the Yellowjackets fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Gore was able to turn it into 7 points as quarterback Noah Cooper ran it in from 17 yards out and the Pirates held a 14-7 lead after the 1st quarter.
2nd Quarter: With all the momentum on the side of the Pirates, Fairview was unable to do anything on their next drive after Gore scored their 2nd touchdown and the Yellowjackets were set to punt the ball back to the Pirates as the 2nd quarter began. That’s when things started to get a little crazy as punt returner Jackson Duke muffed the punt and Fairview was able to fall on it to set them up at the 16 yard line. Fairview wasted no time in capitalizing on the special teams takeaway as Jax Bernard was able to find CTB All-Star Austin Houk on the first play of the drive to tie the game back up at 14. Then it looked like all the momentum was on Fairview’s side as Gore would turn it over on downs on the ensuing drive. The Yellowjackets were looking to take the lead going into the half and thanks to a 42 yard pass from Jax Bernard to Isaiah Burris, Fairview had the chance to do just that as they were set up with 1st and goal at the 5 yard line. However, the Pirate defense stiffened up and Fairview was forced to kick a 19 yard field goal to give them a 17-14 with 3:26 to go in the 1st half. Still plenty of time for Gore though to come down and either tie or take the lead at the break and it felt like the Pirates were about to do just that as they raced down the field and were set up with 1st and goal with just under a minute to go. Then, that’s when things got really weird. On 2nd and goal at the 5 yard line, Pirates quarterback Noah Cooper had a miscommunication with his running back and the ball ended up on the ground and the Yellowjackets were able to fall on it at the 8 yard line, putting an end to their drive. Fairview needed to run just 1 play and they would go to the half up 17-14. And that’s exactly what they tried to do. Jax Bernard went to hand the ball off to his running back Blake Perez and somehow the ball ended up on the ground. One of the Gore defensive linemen looked like he had it in his hands but eventually lost control of the ball before hitting the ground and the ball then flew into the hand of a Fairview Yellowjacket. It was one of the most bizarre plays I’ve ever seen to close out a first half, but after it was all said and done, Fairview held a 17-14 lead after 2 quarters of football.
3rd Quarter: After the chaos of how the 1st half came to an end, 2 quarters of football stood between both teams and a state championship. Fairview would get the 2nd half kickoff with a 17-14 lead in hopes of making it a 2 possession game. After a penalty on the first play of the half, the Yellowjackets were set up with a 1st and 21 on their own 15 yard line. Jax Bernard tried to get some of that yardage back, but the ball was tipped at the line and popped straight up into air where it would fall into the arms of Gore quarterback (who also happens to play linebacker) Noah Cooper. All the momentum was back on the Pirates side and 4 plays later the Pirates would take the lead back on 16 yard TD pass from Noah Cooper to Wyatt Marrel. Pressure now went back to the Yellowjackets as they were looking for an answer and quiet the Gore crowd which was really loud throughout the night. The pressure didn’t bother Fairview one bit and the Yellowjackets took the ball 67 yards in 10 plays are put the ball in the endzone on a 2 yard touchdown by running back Blake Perez. Fairview now held the lead 24-21. On the ensuing kickoff, Kaden Pettus kicked a low line drive kickoff that bounced off the hands of the Pirates and back into the hands of the Yellowjackets. Another special teams turnover. This was it! Another chance for Fairview to take a 2 possession lead with as the 3rd quarter started winding down. Fairview took the ball and stormed all the way down to the 2 yard line where they were set up with 3rd and goal at the 2. That’s where things, again, got a little weird. Fairview attempted a quarterback sneak from the 2 on 3rd down and were stuffed and left with a 4th down and goal at the 1. Fairview head coach Robert Bernard had been so aggressive all game long and there was no question in his mind that he was going to go for it on 4th and goal. They turned and handed the ball to running back Blake Perez in hopes he could get those remaining 3 feet. However, it was not meant to be as the Pirates stopped him and forced the turnover on downs and would take over at the 1 yard line.
4th Quarter: With 1 quarter of football to go in the Oklahoma High School Football season, Gore had the ball on a possession that started back late in the 3rd quarter on the 1 yard line after a goal line stand trailing 24-21. Gore managed to take the ball 99 yards on a good mix of runs and passes and put the ball in the endzone on a 4 yard touchdown pass from Noah Cooper to Dayne Perryman. So there we sat. 9:10 to go in the state championship game with Fairview trailing 28-24. Needing a touchdown to take the lead. A field goal would essentially be useless at this point. You could cut the tension in the stadium with a knife. Pressure was starting to build for both teams. Which team would crack first? The answer to that question appeared to be Gore. Shortly after getting the ball back, Fairview had a 4th and 5 at the Gore 28 yard line and appeared to turn the ball over on downs. However, Gore was called for pass interference and suddenly there was new life for the Yellowjackets. Fairview had to make the Pirates pay for that mistake and on the very next play after the penalty, they did just that as running back Blake Perez barreled his way into the endzone from 14 yards out and it looked like Fairview was about to go up 31-28 with the extra point. Then on the extra point try, Gore jumped offside and Fairview had the option to redo the try from the 1 1/2 yard line or let the PAT stand. With a now 30-28 lead, head coach Robert Bernard decided that he wanted to try for a 2 point conversion and make it a 4 point game and force Gore to go down and score a touchdown in order to beat them. It took some major stones to make a decision like this and it would pay off as Blake Perez made his way into the end zone for the 2 point conversion and Fairview found themselves with a 32-28 lead with under 7 minutes to play. Gore got the ball in hopes of scoring and taking the lead. However, the Fairview defense turned it up to an 11 as they stalled the Pirates offensive drive and forced the Pirates to punt the ball with 5:14 to go. Gore had to make one more defensive stop to get one final chance to get their offense on the field and try to win their first state championship in school history. Fairview was looking to get a couple first downs and seal their first state championship since 1999. The Yellowjackets leaned heavily on Blake Perez who rattled off some big runs when they needed it. But it looked like Gore might just get that chance with less than 2 minutes to go as Fairview was set up with a 3rd and 9 at the Gore 25 yard line. They knew runs were most likely coming so they just had to stay disciplined and not give up 9 yards in 2 plays and they’d get one more chance. However, it all came crashing down for the Pirates as one of their linemen jumped into the neutral zone which gave Fairview a free 5 yards and now Fairview just needed to get 4 yards in 2 plays…a much easier task when you have a running back who was averaging 4.6 yards per carry. After picking up 3 on 3rd and 4, Fairview leaned on Blake Perez on 4th and inches and he was able to fall forward for a yard and a half to get the Yellowjackets a first down to end the game. After a kneel down in victory formation, the Fairview Yellowjackets ran onto the field where they could finally celebrate a state championship! Their 3rd championship in school history and 1st since 1999.
If you weren’t there or weren’t listening on the radio, you really missed out on what could have been the best game the state of Oklahoma had seen all season long in Class A. I did the best I could to paint the picture with my words on this article. I even posted the highlights above to try and give you a sense of what it sounded like. But I still don’t think I could do it the right amount of justice that this game deserved. It was a game that I will always remember for the rest of my broadcasting career. What a night in Edmond, Oklahoma!
Congratulations to Head Coach Robert Bernard and the Fairview Yellowjackets…your 2022 Oklahoma Class A State Chamipions!